AS we all wind down for the holiday I trust you, your families and friends are looking forward to a happy and relaxing Christmas.

The build-up can be frantic and it was certainly so in Westminster with important business being dealt with in the House of Commons this week – not least the conclusion of an important stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill on Wednesday.

Back home in North Yorkshire, Christmas really arrived in the Sunak household with our annual trip to the panto at the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond.

This year’s production – The Wizard of Oz – is outstanding. Our group of family and friends simply loved it and I heartily recommend seeing the show which runs until January 7.

The stand-out performances for me were Gary Bridgens as the Dame and former Georgian Theatre Royal Youth Theatre member Freya Mawhinney who played Dorothy.

I must also mention Toto, played by a three-year-old Cockapoo called Jackson. My small daughters thought he was particularly cute.

The jokes were topical and local, including the obligatory one at the expense of Darlington which I must relay to the town’s MP Jenny Chapman when I next see her in the House. I couldn’t possible re-tell it here; you’ll have to go and see the show!

Another Sunak Christmas tradition is the annual Northallerton Santa Run on the playing fields at Stone Cross organised for the benefit of Herriot Hospice Homecare with the help of the Northallerton parkrun team.

Despite the bitter cold, there was a good turn-out and was I joined by my mum and daughters who didn’t manage the full 5k but did enjoy donning the Santa suits for a family photo.

The event was expertly marshalled by the parkrun volunteers and raised almost £500 for our excellent local hospice.

However, the highlight of the Christmas season was the honour I had last Friday in presenting a medal to a veteran of the Second World War.

Mr Stanley Kitching, aged 93, of Romanby, helped liberate France by his service on D-day but an application for him to receive the Legion d’Honneur – France’s highest order for the recognition of military action - was delayed and then the medal sent out by the French authorities got lost in the post.

Mr Kitching asked me to help and with the assistance of Defence Ministers we managed to get hold of the medal.

It was an absolute privilege to formally present it to Mr Kitching in his home with his family around him and to hear about his war service.

He told me how on D-day he spent the whole day below deck of the destroyer HMS Undaunted which was bombarding the Normandy beaches.

His job was loading shells into the magazine for the destroyer’s four guns – hot, back-breaking work.

Later in the day, the ship was entrusted with the job of returning the Supreme Allied Commander, General Dwight D Eisenhower, to Portsmouth. The General presented his flag to the ship’s company, signing his name with an indelible pen dipped in whisky!

It was wonderful to meet Mr Kitching. We must never forget the service of so many men and women like him whose bravery and sacrifice enable us to contemplate a peaceful and joyous Christmas today.

Have a great holiday and all the very best for 2018. The column returns on January 5.